The bullpen keeps games interesting, doesn't it? Every member of the Nationals' bullpen has struggled at times this season, and yet they do usually get the job done. I decided to take an in depth look at who the Nats best relief pitchers really are deep down in their stats, and decided to share some of my journey through a plethora of top 5 lists with light commentary. Enjoy, if stats are your thing.
A few comments: These stats run through June 6, the first game vs the Giants.
I left two pitchers out of the rankings - Craig Stammen and Colin Balester - because of ESSS (extremely small sample size). So, in the following rankings you will see the top five out of nine relief pitchers in each list.
Remember, ERA and any other stat with Doug Slaten in the top five should be used very judiciously.
FIP, designed to bump the Doug Slatens of this world off the leaderboards.
xFIP normalizes home run percentages, which has been Clippard's weakness. If you remember only one top 5 list, remember this one.
Walks + Hits / Innings Pitched. These guys know how to limit baserunners.
Gaudin makes his first appearance. There was some reason he stuck around for a while, after all.
Do you miss Broderick? Walks are one reason why you could if you wanted to.
Lots of Nats have successfully avoided the long ball. Nothing kills a relief outing like one of those.
Total Batters Faced / Innings pitched. This is another way to look at pitcher's ability to minimize baserunners.
Extra Base Hit Percentage. League Average is 7.1%. Make them play small ball!
League Average OPS against is .709. For reference, Slaten sports a 1.049 OPS against.
Inherited Runners Scored Percentage. Slaten (15-30) has the same percentage as Rodriguez, but doesn't deserve to be on this top 5 list. (For those wondering, Coffey is at 7%, Gaudin at 14%, Clip at 20 %, Storen at 22%. League Average is 31%)
Pitches per Plate Appearance. These guys mow through the opposition efficiently. Except in Slaten's case, the opposition mows through him.
Contact Percentage (Percentage of strikes thrown that a batter connects with - foul or in play). League Average is 79%. These guys' strikes are hard to hit. Gotta love a strike swinging!
0-2 Counts / PA. League Average is 23%. These guys challenge hitters.
Value Above Replacement according to Baseball Reference.
Value above Replacement according to Fangraphs. Yup, that Rule 5 guy is trying to sneak in there.
Luck. Can players influence this? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Gaudin and Slaten were not suffering from bad luck. They just stunk. Everyone else is having a good year so far, with only Rodriguez above the league average of .295.
So, who comes out looking good overall?
Well, ignoring the WAR and BABIP charts, there were fourteen top 5 lists. Storen and Coffey made 12 of them. Clippard and Rodriguez made 11 each. Kimball & Burnett at 8 each.
If I weight by position (#1 = 5 pts, #2 = 4 pts, etc) then Rodriguez comes out on top with 41 points, with Clippard at 37 and Storen and Coffey each with 34 points. Then Kimball at 19.
The Nationals bullpen is anchored by four men: Tyler "Peaches" Clippard, Drew Storen, Todd Coffey and Henry "Lightning" Rodriguez. No one of them is heads and shoulders above the rest. Each has his strengths and his weaknesses. Each has his fun quirks, and each is fun to watch.